Rapid prototyping materials advance

DSM Somos believed that stereolithography and laser sintering technologies have not changed significantly over 20 years, but the materials have advanced considerably.

DSM Somos said that stereolithography (SL) and laser sintering (LS) technologies have not changed significantly since their inception some 20 years ago SL is still a liquid photopolymer in a vat initiated layer by layer by a high powered laser.

LS is still the basic process of sweeping layers of powdered plastics across a build chamber and sintering it layer by layer, using a high power laser.

Other less costly processes such as FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or 3D printing offered by Z- Corporation, have appeared in recent years – generally at the expense of either quality, tolerances, speed, or post process part properties, said DSM.

* Materials advances – DSM said it now has materials that offer outstanding properties such as crystal clear clarity (WaterClear Ultra 10122), extreme impact strength (DMX-SLT 100), heat deflection temperatures up to 250 deg C (NanoTool), and silicone-like flexibility.

DSM Somos has developed a ceramic-like SL resin ‘Nanotool’.

This resin opens up many of applications for the RP community, most of which remain untested.

Its current applications include the following.

* Rapid tooling molds.

* Prototype molds for vacuum forming.

* Complex tooling inserts.

DSM claimed that it is extremely accurate and is the only SL resin capable of withstanding temperatures in excess of 250 deg C.

Its stiffness, accuracy and low water absorption makes Nanotool an excellent choice for metal plating, which takes SL into areas of metal prototyping, said DSM.

* Vacuum form moulds – AXIS Prototypes has partnered with a leading vacuum forming company, which specialises in vacuum forming and packaging manufacturing, to test the viability of Nanotool for making vacuum form molds using thin clear packaging such as the ones you would see for packaging rolls of coins.

Sales manager for AXIS, Vincent Laithier, said the company had concluded some very successful tests.

He reported on Nanotool: "its heat dissipation is lower than aluminum so we found it needed a longer cycle time." Operations manager of the partner company said it placed an order with AXIS and three to five days later it received a mould 3-5 days later we have a mold.

Three days after that, a virtual look alike prototype was in the hands of the client.

He said that this procedure had really cut down the vacuum forming company’s cycle time and added value to its process.

Tooling specialists and injection molders also appreciate the benefits of Nanotool, said DSM.

They can have complex tooling inserts with multiple undercuts or out of the ordinary geometry in their hands in just two to three days.

Yet not all applications of this resin have been tested, said the company.

AXIS plans to do some testing of Nanotool molds for low volume injection molding parts.

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